For days now, the Internet has been buzzing about the former Stanford University swimming star convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, the incredibly powerful statement she courageously read at his sentencing hearing, the suspect’s baffling refusal to take responsibility for his behavior, the absurdly lenient sentence the judge handed down, the asinine letter written by the suspect’s father in which he described a brutal sexual assault as “20 minutes of action,” and the opinions of everybody who has seen any part of this story.

Some of my friends have asked me why I’ve remained mostly silent, have not really contributed to the conversation aside from a couple of Facebook shares. There are two answers. First, I’m far too angry to say anything coherent. Second, dozens — probably hundreds — of people have already expressed everything I’m feeling — outrage, disbelief, indignation, horror, fury, frustration with a system that protects suspects — some suspects, anyway — and drags victims through all sorts of figurative mud and filth, and most important, in my opinion anyway, support for the victim.

(Santa Clara County Sheriff via AP)

(Santa Clara County Sheriff via AP)

The suspect, Brock Turner, seems to truly believe that the only thing he did wrong that night in 2015 was drink alcohol.

It does not matter that a jury of his peers — 12 reasonable men and women — convicted him on three different counts — felony counts — of sexual assault. All he did was drink.

He’s lying to himself, and I cannot fathom how, but I imagine it must come from how he was raised. I say that because Turner’s father does not seem to think Turner did anything wrong either. He wants his gentlemanly son to use his experience to teach college students “about the dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity.”

Wait. What?

Let me quote Turner’s father again — “the dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity.”

I’m not saying drunkenness does not lead to epically poor decisions. It does. Just ask anybody who has gotten a DUI in Arizona. We have some of the toughest DUI laws in the country, including for first-time offenders. But I digress. We’re not talking about drinking and driving. We’re talking about alcohol and promiscuity.

Promiscuity, which is usually attributed to women, requires action. Action requires consciousness. There was only one person conscious that night. Here’s a hint, it wasn’t Turner’s victim. I hate calling her “Turner’s victim.” She deserves to be known by a name — not Turner’s anything. The only name the general public knows is Emily Doe, so that’s what I’ll call her.

Let me interrupt myself a moment to share a disturbing statistic. But first, I need to say that I’ve written about 400 words.

Why does that matter? Bear with me.

2 minutesAccording to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), somebody somewhere is sexually assaulted every 107 seconds — less than 2 minutes.

The average adult reads about 200 words per minute. Here we are at more than 400 words, so it’s been about two minutes. In the time it has taken you to read this far, somebody somewhere has had her — or his — life ripped apart.


Maybe it was a college freshman, stone-cold sober in her dorm room at the hands somebody she trusted.

Maybe it was a young woman, drunk at a party at the hands of somebody she never actually met.

The circumstances might be vastly different, but the root and the results are the same.

Neither young woman gave consent.

I have dealt with the effects of sexual assault — some predictable, some not — for more than two decades. Emily Doe has endured a trial just as brutal as the attack to which she was subjected. And she has a long road ahead of her, a long life to live. But judging by the eloquent, heartbreaking statement she read at Turner’s hearing and the indelible support she seems to have, she will be OK. Different from what and who she was before Turner helped himself to her body. But OK. And she will help other young women be OK.

So let’s get back to this consent thing that seems to so confuse Turner and those like him.

If a woman is drunk, she probably is not thinking entirely straight and cannot give consent. If a woman is unconscious, she sure as hell cannot give consent.

Turner was conscious. Drunk, but conscious. Emily Doe was not. Is there anything unclear here?

Emily Doe’s panties did not remove themselves. That was all Turner. Even if they did, even if she took them off herself and twirled them in the air while dancing on a table, that is no excuse for what Turner did.

She was drunkThe only foreseeable consequence of drunkenness is a hangover. Not sexual assault.

Again, what’s unclear? Click here if you’re still confused about consent.

A pair of men on bikes knew something was wrong. They could see it. From a distance. They saw that Emily Doe was not moving.

Thank God they intervened. That’s what a man does. He looks out for people who cannot look out for themselves.

Unless I miss my guess, this story has struck a nerve in every woman who has been sexually assaulted. It certainly has with me.

A work friend just told me somebody he knew in high school reached out to him to thank him for looking out for her years ago. She said she never forgot how he stepped up on her behalf. I know she never will.

By the way, 800 words. Another 2 minutes. Another sexual assault.


Back to Turner, who, along with his father, seems to think he got a raw deal — 6 months in jail (not prison), having to register as a sex offender.

I have to ask myself if they would still think that if the situation had been slightly different. What would their views or opinions of what happened that night be if we changed those involved?

What if Turner were not the suspect? What if he knew the victim? What if he were the victim? What if an unknown person stuck his/her finger inside Turner while he was unconscious, helpless, for 20 minutes.

Would 6 months in jail be enough then? Would the suspect be guilty of something more than simply drinking alcohol?

I have no way of knowing, of course — Turner’s morals and values seem to be vastly different from mine and those of pretty much everyone I know — but I kind of think the answer is yes. If he were not the suspect here, I believe he might feel differently about everything that has happened.

Turner does not want to see himself as somebody who could do something so monstrous. Who would? Maybe he can’t see himself that way. He desperately needs to believe that he’s a good guy.

But. There’s always a but. He ran from the men on the bikes who asked him what was going on. Again, I don’t know what, if anything, was going through his head at that point. I would like to think it’s something along the lines of, “What have I done?” but I seriously doubt it. Whatever he was thinking, he ran.

To me, that indicates that on some level he knew what he had done wrong. So he ran.

Brock-nametagAnd maybe the reason he can’t enjoy a nice steak and isn’t the happy-go-lucky guy his father said he’s been until now is that he knows exactly what he did and how despicable it was — is. How despicable he is. Not a good guy at all. The polar opposite of a good guy.

“I’ve been shattered by the party culture …,” Turner wrote in a letter begging for the leniency he was granted. He’s been shattered. Really? He has been shattered?

I would argue that this prissy, self-righteous, entitled little prick of a daddy’s golden boy does not know what shattered is. Not really. Emily Doe, on the other hand, does.

Turner made a mistake. I think we can all agree on that. But it wasn’t just drinking alcohol.

He took advantage of a woman who could not defend herself — was not even conscious enough to try to defend herself — and he grossly violated her.

Neither of their lives will ever be the same.

Causes of rapeThere’s a graphic floating around the Internet. It’s a pie graph that breaks down the cases of rape. It’s not short skirts or alcohol or flirty behavior or walking alone or television or any other thing that might be mentioned.

Rape is caused by rapists. Period. End of discussion.

Except that it’s not.

1,200 words. Another sexual assault. That’s three in the time you’ve been reading.


The discussion about sexual assault, particularly sexual assault on college campuses, cannot and should not end. Not until sexual assault is a thing of the past. Not until everybody — everybody — understands and adheres to the concept of consent.

No means no. Always. Any time. Even if it comes after a yes. It doesn’t matter what happen last week, last night or a minute ago. No means no. And not saying no does not automatically mean yes.

It’s really not that difficult.

Sexual assault is not “20 minutes of action” or something that “just happens.”

As for the perpetrators? They need to take responsibility and be punished so that everybody understands that sexual assault is not acceptable. Ever. No matter who the suspect is. No matter who the victim is. It is not OK.

And the punishment needs to fit the crime, and it needs to do so consistently. Judges have a lot of leeway in sentencing. Perhaps they shouldn’t.

I’m not saying the Stanford alum judge who sentenced Turner cut him a break because of their shared connection to the Cardinal, but I’d bet money any other suspect — non-Stanford, non-athlete, non-white, non lots of other things — would be spending more than 6 months in prison.

So, what can we do? Support Emily Doe and those like her.

Put an end to rape culture. Allow girls and women who have been victimized to safely come forward. Teach boys and men to be gentlemen, or, at the very least, decent human beings. (Check out this letter to Turner’s dad from another father. It’s rather brilliant.)

Judge Aaron Persky of the Santa Clara County Superior Court. (Jason Doiy/The Recorder, via The Associated Press)

Judge Aaron Persky of the Santa Clara County Superior Court. (Jason Doiy/The Recorder, via The Associated Press)

I don’t think it’s necessary to demonize Turner or Judge Aaron Persky. It seems like they’re already among the most reviled men in the country and deservedly so — in my humble opinion. But let’s stop with the death threats. Let’s take the high road and look at what rational (not to mention legal) actions that might show Persky and judges like him it is not OK to be soft on those convicted of sexual assault.

There is an online campaign by UltraViolet, a group dedicated to fighting sexism and expanding women’s rights, to remove Persky from the bench. As of this writing, the petition had more than 524,000 actions, more than the original goal of 450,000 and closing in on the updated goal of 650,000. There’s a Change.org petition, as well. That one had 524,000 supports last time I checked

Finally, read Emily Doe’s statement. Every word of it. Read the letter Turner’s father wrote. Decide for yourself who was “more hurt” by “20 minutes of action.”

It horrifies me to say this, but to the girls and women who will be sexually assaulted, know that you are not alone. Know that there are people — some you know and even more that you probably never will — will stand up for you. You have nothing to be ashamed of and no reason to hide. You do not have to deal with this alone.

1,600 words. Four sexual assaults — at least — in the time it has taken you to read this.


To get help 24/7, call the RAINN hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Now if I may be so bold, I would like to quote Emily Doe, the closing of her statement.

“And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. As the author Anne Lamott once wrote, “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you.”

I am, too.